8 simple ways to recharge your mind and body in the forest
Nowadays it feels like we never have a minute to stop and just relax. We’re so busy that there’s always something going on; whether it’s work, family, emotional, or other aspects of our lives. It can feel like there are always things to do or to worry about.
Being active and getting outdoors regularly is a great way to keep healthy and fit physically. It can also play an important role in your mental wellbeing. Research suggests exercise can enhance the body’s ability to respond to stress, and increases norepinephrine levels, which helps moderate the brain’s stress-response.
Stress affects us all, and can have an overwhelming effect on our wellbeing, both mentally and physically. Talking to your GP is important if these feelings affect your daily life or have lasted more than a few weeks. There are some ways you can try and manage your stress levels, including getting out into nature and exploring the forests and countryside around you.
Using nature for emotional wellbeing is well known across the globe. The term ‘forest bathing’ was coined in Japan – even becoming part of the national public health program in 1982. The idea is simple: being around trees for relaxation and recreation can help to reduce stress, increase mental-wellness and boost immune systems. Breathing in the organic compounds that trees emit – phytoncides – as you explore the forest can help improve your immune system.
Here are some of our favourite ways to relax and have some well deserved me-time.
Walk your dog
New research recently showed that dog owners can keep themselves and their dogs happier and healthier by walking more often in urban woods and greenspaces. The research found dog owners might not be giving their dogs the daily exercise they need to stay fit and healthy because they may not know about nearby greenspaces.
Dog walking also helps people make new contacts and can reduce social isolation. So grab your four-legged friend and get into the forest!
Turn off your phone
Email. Social media. Text messages. Our phones give us instant access and connectivity in a way never experienced before. But this constant connection can also lead to sleep issues and increased anxiety. FOMO, or fear of missing out, can lead us to check our phones more and more often. Using smartphones late at night can even affect sleep patterns.
Going out into the forest can help solve a growing need to constantly check our phones, simply by being too remote in places to get 3 or 4G connection. Sometimes it’s better to enjoy nature without a phone in your hand.
Catch up with a friend
Smartphones have made it easier than ever before to connect with friends and family. We speak to people every second of the day without having to do anything more than type on a screen.
While this allows us to stay connected, face-to-face meetings can have a great impact on your wellbeing. The support provided through real-world relationships helps promote mental wellbeing through sharing feelings and experiences. Chatting problems through with a friend as you wander through the woods can be a great way to unwind and clear your head.
Listen to music
Music has been used for centuries for meditation and to help cure ailments. Different types of music can have different effects on the brain with some tempos increasing alertness and concentration, and other tempos helping to relax muscles and lower blood pressure.
Music can help drown out the noise and distractions of life, allowing you to relax and clear your mind of your worries. Try searching for calming playlists online like this to start you off.
Enjoy a stunning view
Whether you’re surrounded by the countryside’s stunning colours, gazing over a glittering loch or enjoying an endless panorama, take some time to enjoy the view and acknowledge the achievement of getting there. Sometimes we don’t get to just stop and really savour the sounds, smells and everything that makes the outdoors so amazing in Scotland.
This calming breathing exercise from the NHS can be done anywhere, including as you enjoy being surrounded by nature, to help manage stress.
Set yourself a challenge
The NHS suggests challenging yourself, as this helps to build confidence, which in turn helps deal with stress. There are plenty of ways to try something new outdoors – whether it’s taking up a new sport, running 6km instead of 5km or attempting that hillside walk that’s always daunted you. Take it a step at a time, but have an overall goal that you’re working towards.
While volunteering has obvious benefits to the people and organisations who receive the support, research also suggests it’s rewarding for volunteers. Acts of kindness and giving are associated with mental wellbeing, according to the NHS. Volunteering can help build new relationships and reduce social isolation, and give us a sense of purpose and self-worth.
Have a look at our volunteering opportunities for some ideas on what might interest you in the outdoors. There are plenty of other organisations to give up your time for: The Mountains & The People offer volunteer work in Scotland’s National Parks, while the John Muir Trust has a range of ways to get out into the outdoors while doing good work.
Read a book
A study by the University of Sussex in 2009 found that reading can reduce stress levels by 68%, so next time you go for a walk find a nice spot and get lost in your favourite book. By stepping into a literary world through your imagination, you can escape from everyday worries – it only takes six minutes of reading to slow down heart rate and ease tension in muscles.
If you need some tips picking a book you’ll love drop into your local library or bookshop for some advice, or try searching online on handy websites like Goodreads.
Do what makes you happy
It may seem hard sometimes, but try and think about things in life that you’re grateful for. There are things you can’t control, so try and focus on what you can.
If you love walking, try and make more time to explore new routes and places. If watching wildlife if your thing – find out where you can spot your favourite animals in the peace of the outdoors. Pick something that makes you happy and healthy to help you cope better with the ups and downs of a busy modern life.